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How to keep you and your family healthy and safe through the holidays

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HARTFORD — Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are coming right up and FOX 61 wants everyone to have a joyous and safe holiday season. Dr Michael White from the UCONN School of Pharmacy is here with some tips to keep the holidays safe.

So how can we stay healthy and keep our loved ones healthy this holiday season?

Heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure exacerbations occur more commonly this time of year and there are some ways to moderate this risk. The holidays are a special time of year but attempting to harness all that holiday cheer into a single month can lead to overeating, a lack of sleep, excess salt, and stress. From trying to fit it all into your schedule to finding the perfect gifts, it is harder to exercise, sleep, or eat right but you simply need to be realistic with what you can handle, have realistic expectations, make some time for stress relieving exercise, and get to bed on time. If you will be at someone’s house, check out the dessert before you start your meal so you can judge whether a second helping or dessert will best fit in your normal number of calories. You know how much food you normally put on your plate the other 335 days out of the year, don’t overdo it because the “you from the future” on January 2nd would want you to be satisfied and not stuffed during the holidays. If you are cooking for someone with heart disease, go low on the salt and allow people to add it at the table.

People also are less likely to take their medications when they are preoccupied with other activities or they are getting home later and disrupting their normal routine. The double whammy of poor lifestyle choices and not taking your medications can really take its toll. If you feel chest pain or pressure, please do not wait until after Christmas to call your doctor or go to the hospital. People getting to the emergency room with a heart attack have a 70% reduction in their risk of disease if they get there within 1 hour but only a 17% reduction if they get there 6 hours afterwards. It is much better that you disrupt a party for one day than have to deal with the aftermath of a major heart event because you didn’t get prompt treatment.

Are there any dangers specifically for children and seniors during the holidays?

Yes, great aunts and uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents make holiday get-togethers especially festive but please take the time to clear the driveway of ice and snow and make a path clear of presents and light strands inside so they are less likely to fall. Also, if it is a nighttime get together and you can, offer to drive them because it is sometimes hard for them to see well on the way home. For toddlers, heirloom ornaments can contain asbestos or lead so if it is wasn’t purchased in the past 20 years, keep it higher on the tree so they won’t inadvertently put it in their mouths. Also, watch out for toddlers who might want to chew on wires or pull down decorations which can be heavy. New parents want to interact with family members so taking turns with family watching their toddlers can provide safety and good times this time of year. Finally, never, ever leave the house with candles still lit. It is one of the main reasons houses burn down this time of year.